Tuesday, June 30, 2015

New Adventures Coming to Universal Studios

I have many fond childhood memories of my father taking us to Universal Studios. We would board the tram and head out into the back lot of a working movie studio. Back then the tour took us through a flash flood in a Mexican village, crossing the red sea and through the ice tunnel (always got me dizzy, with its spinning walls). In 1979 they added the “Battle of Galactica” tram experience. That was one of my favorite parts of the tour; sadly it was taken out in 1992 to make way for the ¼ mile of escalators that were put in to open up the lower lot.

Today I have continued to walk in my father’s footsteps and have taken my son to Universal Studios several times since returning to California in 2012. It’s definitely an exciting time to be an annual pass member with Universal studios. The Universal Studio of today is a very different and much more exciting experience than the one I grew up with. 

 “Transformers the Ride: 3D”, a recent addition to the park showcases the level of effort Universal is committing to making the studio an amazing destination for families all year round. Joseph loves this ride so much that we have to ride it each time we are at Universal Studios. It is a thrill packed adventure that puts you in the middle of a mini Transformer movie. The Autobot that you are riding in is called EVAC. He takes you on a high speed adventure through various scenes that combine live studio sets and 3D imagery. This mix is a key factor that contributes to the success of this ride. Universal outdid themselves with this ride, making it a must for all visitors. 
Entrance to Gru's home and Minion Madness 

Minion Mayhem, which opened last summer is the cornerstone attraction of the new minions area of the studio. It opened last summer and has been a runaway hit with the younger visitors, especially my son. Gru has developed a process to turn ordinary humans into minions. You volunteer to become one of his minions and enter the lab to begin your transformation. Once you are transformed you take a wild motion simulator ride through his lab. 

 After the ride, the kids can have some fun at the Minion dance party before heading back outside to what I believe is one of the best parts of the Minion area, the Super Silly Funland! Here the younger kids can run around getting wet in a minion themed water park. There are changing rooms available so make sure to bring swim trunks and a towel for the kids. Aqua socks are mandatory; no barefoot children will be allowed to enter the area so make sure to bring appropriate footwear. For adults the amount of detail that Universal has put into this area is a must see.    

Located next to the Minions area is one of my favorite places in the park. One street transports you to Great Britain and the other to France.  Each area is built to resemble a quaint area in their respective countries country. Here you will also find themed food establishments where you can buy fish and chips to fresh salads and pastries.

Just down the street from these areas is one of the newest remodels that Universal has created. Here you will find Springfield, USA, home to the Simpsons. Universal has added locations from the cartoon including the nuclear power plant that Homer works at (Universal has hidden a cool Easter egg here, look for a large button that you can press and wait for the surprise). Here you can also visit Mo's Tavern and have a real glass of Duff beer. Across the street from Mo's is Lard Lad Donuts where you can feast on giant donuts and enjoy some pretty good coffee to wash it down.  there are several more places to eat right out of the Simpsons, but I will leave those for you to discover.

If you continue through Springfield and past the Kwik-E Mart you will arrive at the Studios original attraction, the Studio Tram Tour. I've taken the tour dozens of times over the years and it never gets old.  This newest version includes an introduction ongoing commentary Comedian by Jimmy Fallon. As a quick side note, Jimmy Fallon did a similar introduction for the Gyrosphere ride. Just as he does in the studio tour, he talks about the safety of the  Gyrosphere and points out that the glass can stop a 50 caliber bullet and the poisonous spit of a Dilophosaurus. Stay tuned for my review of the studio tour and the newest ride attraction "Fast and Furious - Supercharged" later this week.
Minions Water Park
Super Silly Funland
More Water Features for the kids

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Family Time is Precious

All too often we, mothers and fathers, get so wrapped up in providing for our families physical and financial needs that we forget that they also have emotional and spiritual needs.  Making time in a busy schedule to be with the family is a significant part of being a good father and husband. I understand that it can be tough, in today's economy our earnings are not going as far as they used to.

Our children don't see the world the same way we do. To them it is pretty simple, they want our love and attention. Sure, when they get a new toy or game they get excited, but at the end of the day it is that love and attention that they need. Children learn about the material world from us, their parents and we all to often continue to reinforce their mind set in them by our actions.  Instead of glorifying the material, we should show our children that spending time together as a family, at a park having a picnic or simply taking a walk together, is as important to our well being as the material things.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Camping Trip Memories

A few weeks ago my son Joseph and I went camping for the first time. We were there for the Cub Scout Pack graduation camp where the boys would receive their new ranks. We spent two days and nights out in the San Bernardino National Forest having the time of our lives.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

An Amazing Journey

Growing up I had always wondered how my father could be so selfless and give so much for my mother, sister and me.  There were times that he worked three jobs just to make sure that we could have everything that we needed. We had to do without at times, but we still found a way to enjoy our family time together.  I remember thinking that I could never be like my father, he gave so much of himself for us, how could I ever be the man that he was to us?  

In 2007, my son was born and my life changed forever. On that amazing day I held my little boy in my arms for the first time...and I fell in love with him unconditionally. That moment when I held my son was a moment of clarity for me.  I finally got it, really and truly got it. I finally understood why my father did what he did for us.  In that moment I realized that I would sacrifice everything for my family, to keep them happy, healthy and safe.  

This journey that I set out on in 2007 has been wonderful. Don't get me wrong, it hasn't always been easy.I have hit many speed bumps along the way and taken a few wrong turns to get to where I am today as a husband and father.  That journey has made me who I am. Growing up I learned the important life lesson from my father. I learned to never give up, to always stand right back up when life knocks you down.He taught me to be an honorable man, one that claims his mistakes and learns from them rather than trying to hide from them. I have been down many times, but I never felt like I was finally out of the journey, on the contrary, each fall has increased my determination to be stronger and better.  I stand here today a better man, father and husband because I stood up and did not give up. 

I am writing "A Journey Through Fatherhood" to document the ups and downs of an ordinary father on an extraordinary journey.  I dedicate this effort to my father, who did so much for his family to make sure they were healthy and happy.  A father who left this world far to early when he lost his battle with cancer. I love you Dad and miss you still today, 23 years later.